ISBN-10: 1556596324
ISBN-13: 9781556596322
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publish Date: 04/26/2022
Dimensions: 8.90" L, 4.00" W, 0.70" H

The Trees Witness Everything


Price: $17.00


A lover of strict form, best-selling poet Victoria Chang turns to compact Japanese waka, powerfully innovating on tradition while continuing her pursuit of one of life’s hardest questions: how to let go.

In The Trees Witness Everything, Victoria Chang reinvigorates language by way of concentration, using constraint to illuminate and free the wild interior. Largely composed in various Japanese syllabic forms called “wakas,” each poem is shaped by pattern and count. This highly original work innovates inside the lineage of great poets including W.S. Merwin, whose poem titles are repurposed as frames and mirrors for the text, stitching past and present in complex dialogue. Chang depicts the smooth, melancholic isolation of the mind while reaching outward to name–with reverence, economy, and whimsy–the ache of wanting, the hawk and its shadow, our human urge to hide the minute beneath the light.

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"The elegant and reflective fourth collection from Chang presents a moving elegy for both her deceased mother and the dying Earth, using form to capture the fleeting nature of life. . . . The poems seem like fragments of enlightenment collectively working toward a revelation. . . . For those who are grieving and those who have grieved, Chang offers beautiful insights, and a path toward healing."–Publishers Weekly

"From Victoria Chang, who grabbed attention with her recent OBIT, The Trees Witness Everything uses Japanese syllabic forms called wakas to plumb our rich interior lives."–Library Journal

"The poems in The Trees Witness Everything are not necessarily meant to be distinct, in that together they enforce a practice, a timescale, in which each poem contributes. . . to writing as always an epistemological experiment."Los Angeles Review of Books

"Chang follows Obit (2020) with a new collection in four sublime parts. At the start, Chang works with a traditional Japanese form, waka, also known as tanka, or short poem, and adroitly uses titles of poems by W. S. Merwin as prompts, creating astonishingly subtle poems that gracefully bloom. In 'The String, ' she writes, 'When the earth rotates, / a person not tied down with / longing falls off into space.' The book's second section is 'Marfa, Texas, ' a long poem sculpted out of reflection on that enigmatic art mecca in the West Texas desert. Lines pop out: 'Here, / you can pay someone to clip / off your shadow and walk it / across the border.' Or 'Here, / when I cry in my head, my / tears come out as letters.' The poet's dialog with Merwin continues in part three, 'The Shipwreck, ' as she offers 'I sit at my desk. / Desire is an anchor– / I lift it and words come up.' Wildness is alive throughout in birds–hawks, crows, and wounded larks–along with crickets and beetles that appear between sentences. 'Love Letters' closes this enlightened collection, which reads as an amalgam of buoyant messages from the pandemic we're all experiencing with lines like: 'Don't forget what happened / last year–when you missed people / so much you let them in.' Poetic wisdom past and present is very much alive here."–Raúl Nino, Booklist, starred review

"Victoria Chang is, quite simply, a marvel–she is a poet, essayist, multimedia artist, children's author, badass Asian American sister, and fierce human to two wondrous dachshunds and two kids. Her nonfiction collection Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief juxtaposes intimate archival fragments with memory, shapeshifting across the past, present, and future. She is a poet who lingers in the liminal, watching 'the lemon turning yellow.' Chang interweaves the weight of loss, reality, language, and loneliness with the most impossible, haunting thread. What we think we know, we don't. What we want to know, we can't. And even in loss and grief, 'We still love many people, / eat peaches as if kissing.' Chang's latest collection of poetry, The Trees Witness Everything, is a startling, meditative portal into the half-human, half-animal heart. The collection features a series of wakas, poems written in various Japanese syllabic forms. As an added constraint, Chang pulls inspiration from titles of W. S. Merwin poems. Within those imposed structures, Chang finds expansive worlds upon worlds."–Jane Wong, BOMB

"These tight wakas, like our fate, bridle us, raise our rage, make our hearts beat against their impossible, immovable cages."–Philip Metres, Lit Hub

"The poetry lover in me is thrilled that the world has more of her elegant and lyrical verse, which explores the cycles of grief and loss, and of course, rebirth."Chicago Review of Books

"Chang captures the mind's calm, melancholy seclusion while reaching forth to describe the pang of desiring, the hawk and its shadow, and our human need to bury the minute beneath the light–all with reverence, economy, and humor. Her collection talks about a lot with care and directness."–Bookstr

"The calm speculation in the The Trees Witness Everything is both soothing and mystifying: elegant confusion, indeed. This book further develops this talented poet's oeuvre."–Valley Voices

"Chang's new book of poetry explores loss, mourning, and redemption through the prism of the Japanese waka. The poet uses this traditional form as a contrast to her contemporary language. While some subjects, such as the loss of her mother, are somber and melancholic, the music of Chang's verse soars with hope."–Alta

"This emphasis on a before and after is evocative of a cycle–the circle of life, if you will–and Merwin, just like Chang, seems to believe in the idea that history and life are really just ongoing cycles designed to propel us forward, just as they also keep us tied to our pasts."–Ploughshares

"[Chang] contrasts the natural world with the immeasurable spaces of human experience, often asking questions of the reader. 'How is it that trees / don't feel the way humans do? / The oldest tree is / five thousand years old, great storms / captured in its trunk.' . . . Chang's homage to Merwin, combined with her use of form, gives her new collection life. Most pages contain two small poems, paired and balanced, making the book simultaneously intense and readable."The Rumpus

"The introduction of dual constraints would easily limit the creative bounds of many writers, yet Chang excels again and again. The end result is a remarkably unique and poignant collection of short poems that trade on the economy of language to deliver powerful reflections on the intersection of life and the natural world."–Poetry Question

"In this brilliant new collection, Chang continues her exploration of memory and mourning. These are impeccable, precise poems, sometimes shocking and strange, but always startling in their ability to excise an utterance from the depths of grief and longing that is both painful and reverent: 'I sit at my desk. / Desire is an anchor - / I lift it and words come up.' Chang's crystalline, controlled poems seem etched from deep experience, and move hauntingly between the living and the dead. Attuned to the passage of seasons, to the raw wanting instilled by loss and isolation, these are nevertheless poems that make one feel less alone by giving voice, and by recording, the strange flashes of light and odd perspective registered. The majority written in Japanese syllabic form called 'wakas', their economy lends them both a sharp detail and a hallucinatory potential, traversing a staggering progress of thought and image across a small number of lines..."–Irish Times

"Rarely have I been so captivated by a collection; each brief poem demands your full attention for repeated readings. Though small, these poems have an outsized gravitational pull, like that of a superdense star."–Powell's Midyear Roundup 2022

"In this new collection, Chang continues exploring loss and grief, even, or especially, for those with unknown histories. The Trees Witness Everything uses the constraint of a particular poetic form–a Japanese syllabic form called 'waka' – to navigate loneliness, longing, and letting go with both poignancy and humor."Shondaland

"Waka, ache, release."Ms. Magazine

"The simple cover of this slim volume is a nod to the apparent simplicity of the poems it contains. However, appearances can be deceiving. The Trees Witness Everything engages with Japanese poetic forms called 'wakas' that are powerful in their brevity."–Book Riot

"Some poets believe that strict forms take all of the creative energy out of poetry. Others, like Victoria Chang, seem to revel in these constraints. Her newest collection is composed mostly of the Japanese form called wakas. Still reeling from the deaths of her parents while reveling in the lives of her children, this new collection is a celebration of language and the versatility of ancient poetic forms."–Book Riot

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ISBN-10: 1556596324
ISBN-13: 9781556596322
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publish Date: 04/26/2022
Dimensions: 8.90" L, 4.00" W, 0.70" H
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